Wildfires are burning the West Coast, hurricanes are flooding the Southeast and some of those storms are rising from the dead.
“Zombie storms,” which regain strength after initially petering out, are the newest addition to the year 2020. And these undead weather anomalies are becoming more common claim scientists.
“Because 2020, we now have Zombie Tropical Storms. Welcome back to the land of the living, Tropical Storm Paulette,” the National Weather Service wrote on Tuesday (Sept. 22).
Paulette, a zombie storm
Earlier this month, Tropical storm Paulette formed in the Atlantic Ocean and made landfall in Bermuda as a Category 1 hurricane. It then strengthened over land into a Category 2 hurricane, before weakening and dying off five and half days later.
But then, Paulette opened her frightening eye once again. She wasn’t gone.
Paulette regained strength and became a tropical storm once more about 300 miles (480 kilometers) away from the Azores Islands on Monday (Sept. 21), according to CNN.
The term “zombie storm” is new, and though the phenomenon has been recorded before, it is thought to be rare.
Zombie storms on the rise
But zombie storms are going to happen more often, said Donald Wuebbles, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
There has been an “extreme amount of heating of the Gulf (of Mexico), particularly in some of the ocean areas off of the Carribean,” explains Wuebbles.
Atlantic Ocean storms typically form in warmer parts of the ocean near Africa, due to a combination of atmospheric and ocean conditions. They then “race across” the ocean toward the Americas, Wuebbles said.
Hurricanes need warm water and moist air to form. Storms grow if there’s a continuous supply of energy from warm water and air, and they weaken when they move over cooler waters or over land.
“If they’re not so strong, in the past, they would just die out,” over the Atlantic, Wuebbles said. But now, they reach warm water in the Carribean region and pick up energy again, he added. This is also true for storms that haven’t died out yet.
For instance, about a month ago, Hurricane Laura strengthened overnight from a Category 1 storm to a Category 4 storm because it picked up energy from warm water in the Gulf, Wuebbles said.
Storms are likely to become more intense… And thus the idea of “zombie storms” waking up from the dead may be here to stay.